Excursions on Italy’s Liguria Coast: Marble Capital Carrara

We established our base camp in Sestri Levante and settled into an 8 night vacation rental in the center of town.  On previous trips to this area we saw the white mountains surrounding the village of Carrara and made a note to someday add it to one of our itineraries… today is the day! 

Tunnels and Caves in the Hills of Carrara, Italy

The drive from Sestri was less than 2 hours and when we arrived in the town of Carrara we were taken aback by the quiet mining village situated at the base of the craggy, saw-tooth ridge line which flowed into a mountain range and disappeared into the clouds.

As a tourist, we expected stores selling finished products, slabs of polished marble to order and a miniature statue or two on display for that impulse purchase.  The actual mines were miles away, up these steep mountains and the route was clearly marked by road signs… all pointing up.

The roads leading to the quarries were semi-paved and hard packed dirt with no traffic direction signage – is it a two-way road or one-way?  This was not a real concern until we rounded a corner and came face to face with gigantic trucks carrying humongous chunks of white marble… got our attention really fast!

IMG_7868This is not the time to play “Chicken” 

We eventually figured out the system; there is one main road up which continues on down, all with a one way traffic pattern… except near the actual mines and the construction areas.  You have to figure it out…cross your fingers and just drive.

The Marble Mines

IMG_7894Tours into the mines are availableIMG_7865A mountain of raw marbleIMG_7892Gigantic trucks carrying tons of material

 Mining Tools of the Past

IMG_7879 Handsaw used to cut the marble about 3 inches per day using two menIMG_7872Hand tools on displayIMG_7876Early Use of Power Tools to drive the cutting cables

Mining Tools of the Present

Marble has been used for thousands of years and over time the mining tools evolved from “primitive” hand tools to high speed diamond stone cutting tools and tungsten carbide steel band saw blades… but all methods are still labor intensive and expensive. 

IMG_7864One of the monsters working the minesIMG_7863Note the size of the carsIMG_7866BIG heavy duty equipment – they look like toys

 Before and After

David Photo Credit: Michelangelo Gallery

In 1501 Michelangelo (Buonarroti) was presented with a damaged block of Carrara marble and created the magnificent Statue of David about three years later.  For more information about Michelangelo please go to the “Michelangelo Gallery” webpage… http://www.michelangelo-gallery.com/david.aspx

Driving in the Mine Area has its Moments

We had to literally “feel” our way along the unmarked, semi-paved roads.

IMG_7867Road signs indicating the names of specific caves… aka MinesIMG_7901One of many tunnelsIMG_7903Can you see the end of this one?

The following “YouTube” video represents a brief clip of the view from within one of the many tunnels that we had to traverse in order to get back down the mountain of marble…. add some volume and enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryGe_FSCnwM&feature=youtu.be

We made it back to Sestri and actually washed our road warrior SUV complete with dirt and marble dust from the mines of Carrara.IMG_8138                                                                      Marble dust

 In Summary

The side trip out of Sestri Levante was filled with adventure and exposed us to incredible scenery as well as a few sweaty palms while driving in assorted tunnels on unmarked roads.  Worth it?  You bet and being independent travelers was our passport to the freedom of choice.

Please follow us in the next article… Excursions on Italy’s Liguria Coast: Cinque Terre

After all, what is the hurry… be inspired.

© 2016 Inspired Travel Itineraries with Bob and Janice Kollar

© 2016 Picture Credits Bob & Janice Kollar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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